For years now we’ve enviously watched the workings of Jonathan Ward’s company ICON 4X4 and its sister company TLC. These folks make what could arguably be called the most capable out of the box off-roaders, and the vast majority of the items that go in them are US made.
We like that US craftsmen build/re-build these rigs, but what we’re really impressed with is the effort that is put into making them even better than they were when they were originally built.
To be honest, we doubt that anybody has built a better rig for a long, hard life of adventure lifestyle than the Toyota products that came from the ARACO plant in Toyota City.* That said, the idea of improving the ability and durability of a Land Cruiser on a regular production schedule is hard to imagine. Somehow ICON and TLC pull this off regularly.
What makes the ICON brand all that much more fascinating is that they build a line-up of the finest off-road specimens with the latest in up-to-date gadgetry, and the finest of tried and trusted old-school parts. An example would be their Ford Bronco derived BR series model. For every high-tech LED based fancy light, and super durable gas-filled FOX racing shock, on the vehicle, there is a time honored Dana axle and Atlas transfer case. All this, put onto a classic Bronco frame and body, with a Ford sourced Coyote 5.0 liter under the hood. And it’s beautiful to look at!
For their remarkable CJ series model, based on the venerable and coveted CJ3B, the entire vehicle has been morphed to run with the current running gear from the Jeep Rubicon. In doing so, they’ve vastly improved the rolling characteristics, while keeping the same look as the old Willy’s. The new tech works because the staff at ICON has sourced vendors, technicians and production staff that have the skills to put these things together with an attention to detail that would draw empathy from an OCD sufferer. If they couldn’t find parts in the US, it seems they simply built them themselves in Los Angeles.
Finally there is the FJ series ICON. Earlier, we touted the Land Cruiser as a great, durable vehicle. We stick by our statement, but need to add that the ICON FJ series is to a Land Cruiser FJ40 series as a BMW 3 series might be a BMW M3. They are very closely related, but they perform in vastly different ways. Upgraded suspension, engine systems, interiors, exterior trimming (or lack thereof in the case of the ICON) and the overall feel of an ICON on the road and off. ICON brings the old FJ40 (last built in 1984) into the 21st century with comfort, agility and ability while also providing the same reliability that built the Land Cruiser mark.
If you haven’t noticed yet, we love ICON’s product line, and we noticed that they didn’t have a tee that conveyed the entire line. So we made one for them, and we think this works for ICON in order to get the word out. (Because there’s nothing like good swag to puff up the chest of an automotive journalist.) A solid design for the shirt, an homage to their skills and colors, and a bit of a tip of the hat to old school design. All sourced and printed on a US made tee. It closes the circle, and keeps the love local. Sweet!
*(Please take note: We said “we doubt anybody has built a better rig”: The J series products from Brampton and Toledo are awesome lifestyle rigs, as are the ones from Solihull, but they are not the subject here, so don’t freak out. And we won’t even get into the Puch product line.)